This week I had a presentation about Digital Aladore that I grandly titled:
Digital Aladore: Creating and Reading with Free Software and the Public Domain
It was a great time chatting with people about the project and imagining how it relates to work that others want to do.
Here is a PDF of the poster I made for the event: Digital Aladore Poster
Also, here is some of the abstract. It repeats things said else where in this blog, but in a more condensed form:
I love reading old books and I love reading on my e-reader. I also love free stuff—cost free and freedom-free, like Free software. Well known authors in the public domain have many high quality ebook editions freely available from organizations such as Project Gutenberg or commercial vendors such as Feedbooks. But what if you want to read something more obscure?
I was trying to read Henry Newbolt’s Aladore, a “forgotten fantasy” novel from 1914. Print editions were digitized by the Internet Archive, but a true ebook version was never created. The digitized books can be read in an online viewer or downloaded as an image-based PDF. Unfortunately, the PDFs are too highly compressed, requiring extensive rendering time in any reader. Internet Archive also provides numerous other formats derived from automated OCR. Unfortunately, the quality is very poor and there has been no attempt to edit the resulting text or format the ebooks. Basically, you have a choice between a low-quality-ridiculously-slow-and-cumbersome PDF or a gibberish-filled-automatically-generated EPUB. This makes for a horrible reading experience!
It was so horrible, I decided to create my own ebook. Thus, Digital Aladore was launched September 2014—exactly one hundred years after Aladore was first published. It was originally conceived as a “Create” project for LIBR 559Q Open Knowledge, but my work has continued beyond the context of the course. The idea is to use freely available public domain materials (the digitized copies of Aladore) and free software to create a GOOD digital reading edition of the text, and to blog about the entire process along the way.
The bigger idea is to demystify the creation of ebooks, empowering readers to be reflective creators. Digital Aladore has a zero dollar budget: public domain content, free software, recycled hardware—all you need is some interest, passion, and perseverance. The blog explores preserving, creating, and sharing through public domain, free software, open formats, and Creative Commons. It reflects about the process of digitization and textual transmission. However, the main focus is a practical hands-on spirit: crack open an EPUB or an old computer, and look inside!